from a strictly legal point of view there is no obligation to undertake the care of a particular patient, although in an emergency there is an ethical and sometimes statutory responsibility to provide emergency care to the level to which one is trained and experienced.">

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Reasonable Care

Posted on:12/12/2015
The legal definition of the standard of care required of doctors is not absolutely clear. This lack of clarity arises from an apparently changing attitude of the courts, and from the inherent difficulty in directly applying a previous court ruling to a new case which presents its own peculiarities.



 

Historically, the standard of care required was that of 'reasonable care' or the care that a 'reasonable person' would have taken in the circumstances, allowing for the special skills and knowledge possessed by that person.

 

From a strictly legal point of view there is no obligation to undertake the care of a particular patient, although in an emergency there is an ethical and sometimes statutory responsibility to provide emergency care to the level to which one is trained and experienced. It is necessary therefore to distinguish between the duty of care in an emergency and actions for negligence should an established duty of such care be breached.

 

A doctor cannot be sued if a doctor-patient relationship did not exist. For example, if a doctor observed but did not go to the aid of or could not be persuaded to go to the aid of an injured person, the doctor could not be sued for negligence, although disciplinary action might be pursued for unprofessional conduct.

 

 

Damages for Medical Negligence

 

Actions for negligence imply that the plaintiff has suffered damage. The courts accept that damage may be physical or mental ('nervous shock') or involve economic loss. The award of damages is related to the degree of harm or loss and not to the degree of negligence. The compensation is intended to restore the plaintiff to the position that he or she would have been in if negligence had not occurred.

 

Damages are assessed and awarded in regard to general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, specific damages for actual financial losses and expenses (loss of income, medical and hospital expenses) and future losses and expenses arising from the negligence. It is obvious that in assessing some of these amounts, only crude estimates can be made.

The injured patient can also claim damages from the hospital where he was admitted and being treated by the negligent medical professional. Vicarious liability imposes legal liability on a person or organization for the negligence of another person, without any direct personal fault being attached to the person or organization sued. An employer thus may be held responsible for the negligence of an employee, but for this to be established it is necessary to demonstrate that the wrong was committed by a person who was an employee, and was committed by the employee during the course of his or her employment and within the scope of their employment.


  
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